The White House and Congress need a mediator

President Obama, Speaker Boehner, Senator Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrats and Republican - you need a time out! Photo: From White House.gov

WASHINGTON, October 1, 2013 – One of the greatest challenges in managing conflict is having opposing parties acknowledge differing perceptions of what is respectful and disrespectful behavior and/or actions. 

In the current conflict regarding delaying funding for implementation of the Affordable Care Act (colloquially known as Obamacare) and the shut down of the government, the White House has admitted that there is opposition to Obamacare, but it refused to address those issues prior to implementation.

So, what happens when a significant segment of the population’s needs are ignored? The conflict and divide increases as perceptions of disrespect are magnified. In this case, the government shuts down,

Projecting a self-righteous attitude generally limits any opportunity for achieving common ground and an acceptable resolution.  Common ground is the medium for acknowledging the opposition’s perspective and a core motivation for taking steps to address valid concerns.  

Fox News Screen Grab

Fox News Screen Grab

The White House Web site featured a cartoon to educate Americans on what “Obamacare Means for You.”

If you were to click on the cartoon, it featured all the familiar talking points made by the Obama Administration.

[Loosely quoted…] insurance companies are required to provide women wellness visits and family planning, adult children are able to stay on their parents health insurance until age 26, insurance companies who spend more then 20% of your premium on overhead, will be required to send you a refund for the difference. 

All of which may be reasons for supporting Obamacare. Except there is no mention of opposing perspectives in contrast to their points.  

The recording goes on to say that in January the list of benefits will get even longer and it will be illegal for insurance companies to charge you higher premiums.

The problem is the cartoon is only a one-sided sales pitch as opposed to an informational platform for the dissimilation of critical and important information. Why not tell the whole story?

A mediator would ensure all stakeholders, not just the loudest voices, at the table were heard. The politician, the everyman…Mediators ask difficult questions: for example, where is the opportunity for common ground and how do we respectfully acknowledge opposing points of view? 

Not everyone has the resources to hire a lobbyist to get an exemption or waiver. One concern is, if women’s wellness access were open ended, would this not this automatically increase usage as well as the cost? Similarly, if insurance companies have to provide refunds for all overhead over 20% of the premiums insurance companies, would it force some private insurance companies to go out of business because they sell their products generally through third party brokers or agents, which would require a much wider margin than 20% permitted? Eventually insurance rates will be so high there won’t be enough high-end customers who can afford the high insurance rates. Categorically denying the truth in these arguments is disrespectful to the American people.

Despite all of these glaring problems, the White House still refuses to negotiate with the Republicans regarding Obamacare. 

To attempt to move forward with implementation of the legislation without addressing the opposing party’s concerns would seem to be asking for problems, especially given that employer participation has been delayed one year and Congress and their staff have been all given waivers together.  

Does anybody else see the need for mediation skills to help negotiate a more collaborative outcome? Notwithstanding, that we are a country of laws and no single individual can trump the authority of the President of the United States or the Congress. 

A national mediator may not be a practical option for intervening, but when the parties have vowed to dig their heels in – like 10-year olds fighting in the sandbox – it’s the most civilized.


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Millicent Carvalho-Grevious

Dr. Millicent Carvalho-Grevious, is the founder and principal of Pennsylvania Conflict Resolution and Mediation Services, Inc. She has mediated conflicts for over 30 years, providing services in a variety of venues for private and public entities, including the United States Postal Service, the Office of Dispute Resolution of the Department of Education, and the office of Employer Support for the National Guard and Reserve. She was one of 14 conflict resolution experts from 11 nations invited to Chongqing, China in 2009 to participate in a forum titled, “Responding to the Challenges of Financial Crisis and Building Social Harmony.” Previously, she served as Director/Program Chair of Urban Studies and Community at LaSalle University, Associate Professor and Chair of Department of Social Work at Virginia Union University and Associate Professor and Social Work Department Chair at Delaware State University. She earned a Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Social Work and Master of Law and Social Policy degrees at Bryn Mawr College and Master of Education (Counselor Education) at Boston University and Bachelor of Arts at LaSalle University.

Contact Millicent Carvalho-Grevious

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